Page images

They should be construed with reasonable fairness to the citizen. (United States v. Distilled Spirits, 10 Blatch., 428.)

Statutes should receive a sensible construction, such as will effectuate the legislative intention, and avoid, if possible, an unjust or absurd construction. (In re Chapman, 166 U. S., 661.)

The laws providing for forfeiture by violators of revenue laws are not to be governed by the rule of strict construction applied to penal statutes in general, but are to have a reasonable construction. (United States v. 2461 Pounds Tobacco, 103 Fed., 791.)

Statutes are to receive a reasonable construction, and doubtful words and phrases are to be construed, if possible, so as not to produce mischievous results. But when the words are plain and unambiguous, there is no room for construction, and nothing is left for the court but to give them their full effect. (The Samuel E. Spring (1886), 27 Fed., 776.)

Laws of doubtful or double meaning should not be too harshly construed. (United States v. 1,412 Gallons of Distilled Spirits, 17 Int. Rev. Rec., 86.)

There is no reason requiring a statute imposing special internalrevenue taxes to be construed liberally in favor of the Government, but it should be construed fairly and judicially with reference to both parties. (De Bary v. Souer, 101 Fed., 425.)

Revenue and duty laws are not in the sense of the law penal acts, and are not, therefore, to be construed strictly. Nor are they, on the other hand, remedial, to be construed with extraordinary liberality, but are to be construed according to the true import and meaning of their terms, and legislative intention is the only guide of interpretation. (United States v. Breed, Fed. Cas. No. 1222; 1 Sumner, 159; United States v. Thompson, 189 Fed., 939.)

In the interpretation of statutes levying taxes, it is the established rule not to extend their provisions, by implication, beyond the clear import of the language used, or to enlarge their operations so as to embrace matters not specifically pointed out. Doubts are resolved against the Government.-(Gould v. Gould, 245 U. S., 151.)

The rule that the internal-revenue law should be strictly construed in favor of exemption is but a rule of construction, which yields when the intent of the statute is manifest. (In re Hawley, 220 Fed. 372.)

Where income tax law is doubtful, doubt should be resolved in favor of taxpayer against the Government. (Miller v. Gearin, 258 Fed., 225.)

Meaning of language: The words of the statute are to be taken in the sense in which they will be understood by that public in which they are to take effect. Science and skill are not required in their interpretation, except where scientific or technical terms are used. The liability of an instrument to stamp duty, as well as the amount of such duty, is determined by the form and face of the instrument, and can not be affected by proof of facts outside of the instrument itself. (United States v. Isham, 17 Wall., 496; 19 Int. Rev. Rec.. 84.) Punctuation no part of the statute. (Hammock v. Loan and Trust Company, 105 U. Š., 77, 84, 85; 28 Op. Atty. Gen., 537.)

Punctuation not being part of a statute. repunctuation may be made if necessary to avoid absurd and incongruous results. (T. D. 32281.)

Courts are not at liberty, by construction or legal fiction, to include subjects of taxation not within the terms of the law. (United States v. Watts, 1 Bond, 580; 1 Int. Rev. Rec., 17.)

Duties are never imposed on the citizens upon vague or doubtful interpretations. (Hartranft v. Weigmann, 121 U. S., 609, and cases there cited.)

Extrinsic aids: Words spoken by members in debate, or the motives of members, not to be considered in construing statutes; but courts in construing a statute may, with propriety, recur to the history of the times when it was passed. (United States v. Union Pacific Railroad Company, 91 U. Š., 72–79.)

Debates in Congress as sources of information for construction of statutes. (27 Op. Atty. Gen., 68.)

The courts may look to the history of the legislation upon the subject of which the statute treats, and the history of the times in which it was enacted, as well as the general history of the country, to determine the purpose that the Government sought to accomplish. (Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U. S., 457.)

In case of ambiguity in a statute contemporaneous and uniform executive construction is regarded as decisive. (Brown v. United States, 113 U. S., 568; also decisions cited by Attorney General in letter to Secretary of Treasury, Nov. 17, 1885, 31 Int. Rev. Rec., 382; Nunn v. Gerst Brewing Co., 99 Fed., 941.)

Where the language of a series of statutes is dubious, and open to different interpretations, the construction put upon them by the executive department charged with their execution has great and generally controlling force with the court. (St. Paul, Minneapolis, etc., Railway Co. v. Phelps, 137 U. S., 528; see 19 Op. Atty. Gen., 177.)

A construction of a doubtful or ambiguous statute by the executive department charged with the execution, in order to be binding upon the courts, must be long continued and unbroken. (Merritt v. Cameron, 137 U. S., 542.)

It is a rule well established that the construction given to a statute by those charged with the duty of executing it will be given great weight by the courts if the true construction be doubtful (United States v. Hill, 120 U. S., 169, and cases cited, p. 182); but this rule has no application where the statute is not ambiguous or where it will not bear the interpretation put upon it by the executive officers. (Swift Company v. United States, 105 U. S., 691, 695; United States v. Graham, 110 U. S., 219; United States v. Tanner, 147 U. S., 661; United States v. Alger, 152 U. S., 384, 397.)

A long continued and uniform interpretation, put by the executive and legislative departments of the Government, upon a clause in the Constitution should be followed by the judicial department unless such interpretation is manifestly contrary to its letter or spirit. (Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U. S., 244.)

A uniform construction by the department, put upon a doubtful statute, has great weight with the court in construing it, and, where the practice has been followed for a long time, the court will accept the department's interpretation as the proper one. (United States v. Twitchell Co., 184 Fed., 526.)

While an act of Congress must be accepted for the purpose of interpretation in the form in which it was finally passed, and can not

be altered or amended to conform to the meaning given it by individual members who advocated its passage, or by a committee which may have discussed it in a report, such expressions of opinion are entitled to weight in construing the law. (Penn. Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Lederer, 247 Fed. 559; reversed on another point by 258 Fed. 81.) Construction with reference to other laws: Statutes in pari materia are to be construed together, and repeals by implication are not favored if the acts can reasonably stand together. (Harrington's Distilled Spirits, 11 Wall., 356, 13 Int. Rev. Rec., 193; United States v. 100 Barrels of Spirits, 12 Id., 153; United States v. Cook County National Bank, 25 Id., 266.)

Internal-revenue acts should be interpreted in harmony with the tariff legislation of the country. (Taylor v. Treat (1907), 153 Fed., 656.)

It is a settled rule that where there are two consistent acts relating to the same subject, effect is to be given to both of them. (Chicago, etc., v. United States, 127 U. S., 406; Landram v. United States, 118 U. S., 81; 32 Int. Rev. Rec., 151.)

General laws relating to internal revenue not affected by subsequent laws. Subsequent legislation does not supersede general laws unless the contrary clearly appears. (United States v. Barnes, 222 U. S., 513; T. D. 1751.)

Where there are two acts upon the same subject they must stand together if possible. (28 Op. Atty. Gen., 70.)

Statute as a whole: Statutes should be so construed, if practicable, that one section will explain and support and not defeat or destroy another section. (Bernier v. Bernier, 147 U. S., 242.)

The same statute may be in part constitutional and in part unconstitutional; and if the parts are wholly independent of each other, that which is constitutional may stand while that which is unconstitutional will be rejected. Unless it be impossible to avoid it, a general revenue statute should never be declared inoperative in all its parts because a particular part relating to a distinct subject may be invalid. (Field v. Clark (1892), 143 U. S., 649; 38 Int. Rev. Rec., 285.)

Retroactive operation: A statute is construed as prospective unless the intention is clearly expressed that it is retroactive. (Flint . Stone-Tracy Co., 220 U. S., 108: T. D. 1685.)

Presumption: When an act of Congress is claimed to be unconstitutional, the presumption is in favor of its validity, and it is only when the question is free from any reasonable doubt that courts should hold an act in violation of that fundamental instrument upon which all the powers of the Government rest. (Nicol v. Ames, 173 U. S., 509.)

The presumption is in favor of every legislative act. Maryland, 12 Wheat., 419: T. D. 1786.)


(Brown v.

A law of Congress which contains no provision as to the time when it shall take effect commences and takes effect as a law from the moment it receives the approbation of the President. As a general rule, it is not competent to go into the division of a day. (3 Op. Atty. Gen., 82.)

For most purposes the law regards the entire day as an indivisible unit. But when the priority of one legal right over another, depending on the order of events occurring on the same day, is involved, this rule is necessarily departed from. (National Bank v. Burkhardt, 100 U. S., 686.)

In the absence of proof there is a presumption that an act was signed on the first minute of the day when it took effect, but it is competent to show by proof the exact time when the law was approved by the President, and when this is made to appear the law can only be given effect from that time. (Carriage Company v. Stengel, 37 C. C. A., 210; 95 Fed., 637; Nunn v. William Gerst Brewing Co., 99 Fed., 939.)

The case of United States v. Iselin (87 Fed., 194) contains a very full discussion of the subject by the Board of General Appraisers. When necessary to determine conflicting rights courts of justice will take cognizance of the fractions of a day. (Louisville v. Savings Bank (1881), 104 U. S., 469.)

The act of March 3, 1875, took effect from the time it was approved and not at the commencement of the day. (Salmon v. Burgess, 97 U. S., 381; 25 Int. Rev. Rec., 31.)

When the act of August 28, 1894, went into effect. (Burr v. United States, 159 U. S., 78.)

The act of July 24, 1897, became a law only from the moment of its approval by the President, which was 6 minutes past 4 o'clock p. m. (Washington time) on July 24, 1897. (United States v. Iselin, 87 Fed., 194; United States v. Stoddard, 89 Fed., 699; affirmed by the United States circuit court of appeals, 91 Fed., 1005; 34 C. C. A., 175.) The Government, on the advice of the Attorney General, acquiesced in said decisions without seeking to prosecute any appeal to the United States Supreme Court. (T. D. 20627; T. D. 20700.)


The act of June 13, 1898, known as the war-revenue act," took effect on the day next succeeding the day of its passage—that is, on June 14, 1898, except as otherwise provided for. (Sec. 51.)

The act of April 12, 1902 (war-revenue repeal act), took effect July 1, 1902, except as otherwise specially provided for in section 10. The act of August 5, 1909 (Payne-Aldrich tariff act), took effect, unless otherwise specially provided, on the day following its passage. The act of October 3, 1913, the act of September 8, 1916, the act of October 3, 1917, and the act of February 24, 1919, took effect the day following their passage, unless otherwise specially provided. UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT DECISIONS UNDER ACT OF AUGUST 5, 1909.


Constitutionality of Act: Flint v. Stone-Tracy Co., 220 U. S. 107 (T. D. 1685); McCoach v. Minehill Ry. Co., 228 U. S. 295 (T. D. 1847); United States v. Whitridge, 231 U. S. 144 (T. D. 1896); Stratton's Independence v. Howbert, 231 U. S. 399 (T. D. 1913); Anderson v. Forty-two Broadway Co., 239 U. S. 69 (T. D. 2261). "Organized for profit": Von Baumbach v. Sargent Land Co., 242 U. S. 503 (T. D. 2436).

"Doing business": Flint v. Stone-Tracy Co., 220 U. S. 107 (T. D. 1685); Zonne . Minneapolis Syndicate, 220 U. S. 187; McCoach v. Minehill Ry. Co., 228 U. S. 295 (T. D. 1847); Stratton's Independence v. Howbert, 231 U. S. 399 (T. D. 1913); United States v. Emery, 237 U. S. 28 (T. D. 2188); Von Baumbach v. Sargent Land Co., 242 U. S. 503 (T. D. 2436).

Deductions in determining net income: Anderson v. Forty-two Broadway Co., 239 U. S. 69 (T. D. 2261); McCoach v. Insurance Co. of N. America, 244 U. S. 585 (T. D. 2501); Doyle v. Mitchell Bros. Co., 247 U. S. 179 (T. D. 2723); Goldfield Consol. Mines Co. v. Scott, 247 U. S. 126 (T. D. 2722).

Depreciation: Stratton's Independence . Howbert, 231 U. S. 399 (T. D. 1913); Von Baumbach v. Sargent Land Co., 242 U. S. 503 (T. D. 2436); United States v. Biwabik Mining Co., 247 U. S. 116 (T. D. 2721); Doyle v. Mitchell Bros. Co., 247 U. S. 179 (T. D. 2723).

What is "income": Stratton's Independence v. Howbert, 231 U. S. 399 (T. D. 1913); Von Baumbach v. Sargent Land Co., 242 U. S. 503 (T. D. 2436): Doyle . Mitchell Bros. Co., 247 U. S. 179 (T. D. 2723); United States v. Cleveland, etc., Ry. Co., 247 U. S. 195 (T. D. 2725); Hays v. Gauley Mountain Coal Co., 247 U. S. 189 (T. D. 2724); Altheimer & Rawlings Investment Co. v. Allen, 248 U. S. 578 (T. D. 2686).

Massachusetts real estate trust not within Act: Eliot v. Freeman, 220 U. S. 178.



Constitutionality of act: Brushaber v. Union Pacific R. R. Co., 240 U. S. 1 (T. D. 2290); Stanton v. Baltic Mining Co., 240 U. S. 103 (T. D. 2303); Tyee Realty Co. v. Anderson, 240 U. S. 115 (T. D. 2300); Dodge v. Osborn. 240 U. S. 118 (T. D. 2301); (Recovery of tax under R. S., secs. 3220, 3226, 3227); Dodge v. Brady, 240 U. S. 122 (T. D. 2302); Peck & Co. v. Lowe, 247 U. S. 165 (T. D. 2726). Joint-stock association: Massachusetts real estate trust held not to be joint-stock association.-Crocker v. Malley, 249 U. S. 223 (T. D. 2816).

Property of nonresident alien owned in United States: De Ganay v. Lederer, June 1, 1919 (T. D. 2876).

What is "income": Alimony paid to a divorced wife under a decree of court held not "income."-Gould v. Gould, 245 U. S. 151.

Stock dividend representing surplus profits earned prior to January 1, 1913, not taxable to shareholders as income.-Towne v. Eisner, 245 U. S. 418 (T. D. 2634).

Net income of a corporation derived from exporting goods from the States and selling them abroad is subject to be taxed as part of the "entire net income arising or accruing from all suorces."-Peck & Co. v. Lowe, 247 U. S. 165 (T. D. 2726).

Increase in value of timberlands prior to March 1, 1913, when distributed to shareholders on liquidation of corporation, held not "income."--Lynch v. Turrish, 247 U. S. 221 (T. Ď. 2729).

« PreviousContinue »